DIGBY-YARMOUTH COUNTIES, N.S. – While he readily admits his riding of West Nova has ongoing challenges, MP Colin Fraser said 2017 delivered some important successes, and he expects 2018 to offer even more.
“It’s always good to think over the past year and see what went well and what could be improved upon,” Fraser said. “But overall, it was a great year, and we have a lot of important successes that can be built on going forward.”
The successes that Fraser noted for 2017 include:
1. Continued economic success in West Nova in the lobster and seafood industry in particular. Fraser pointed specifically to the economic trade agreement with Europe that came on board in September and that will have a huge impact for western Nova Scotia because it lifts an eight per cent tariff off of lobster exports offering improved access to a consumer base of 500 million people in Europe. “Opening and expanding new world markets is really important to our resource economy in western Nova Scotia,” Fraser said. “So that’s really a great success story and the demand for our seafood exports but also the price being at a very decent level will mean we can continue having a decent economy around here. There has also been some good work done this year exploring China and making those connections.”
2. Fraser said the Canada Child Benefit is now delivering money to families who need it the most and that the program has had a big impact in western Nova Scotia. He said the incidence of child poverty in Digby and Yarmouth counties is much higher than the rest of the province on average and that last year the government helped more than 13,000 kids by delivering an average of $4.63 million a month directly into the pockets of families in his riding of West Nova. Fraser said the CCB is also having an impact on local economies because families are able to spend more on items like clothing or sports activities, and because children have improved access to better nutrition. “The CCB is lifting children out of poverty and that’s very important to our communities.”
3. Fraser was proud of the continued investments to seniors through the New Horizons For Seniors Program that delivered funding to 22 organizations of up to $25,000 each. “Whether it’s a quilting group that needs a new sewing machine or the local legion receiving funds to complete improvements on their building, these are important community service hubs that help engage local seniors to get out and stay active.”
4. Fraser said the Canada 150th celebrations were also significant since they helped engage people right across the riding, the province and the country. Fraser said local activities helped unite different groups including local Indigenous populations, Acadians and young people who all came together to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. Fraser said the events held in Grand Pré and Annapolis Royal drew national attention to the region’s importance in the foundation of the country.
5. Fraser said another highlight of 2017 was the government’s investments in Université Sainte-Anne with almost $1 million delivered in funding towards improvements to the recreation facilities and the library that will help the university attract new students and offer improved services to the entire community.
Overall, Fraser said 2017 was successful for his riding. “Those are some of the highlights for 2017, but there have been a number of infrastructure investments in our community.”
Looking ahead in 2018, Fraser repeated there are ongoing challenges that are being faced in small communities right across Atlantic Canada and even across the country – with an aging population, the strain that population puts on health care systems and population bases that aren’t growing.
However, Fraser pointed to some interesting government programs and opportunities that are currently being developed or expanded:
1. The Atlantic Growth Strategy is now in place, with the federal government working in partnership with all four Atlantic provinces to come up with “whole of government approaches” to help address the issues around a declining population base. Fraser said one of the current focuses of the strategy is the Atlantic Immigration Pilot program that is a flexible program designed to help employers and communities meet skilled labour needs, build stronger communities and help newcomers establish lives in rural Nova Scotia.
For more details, please visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/atlantic-immigration-pilot.html
2. Fraser said West Nova is also well positioned to benefit from the Atlantic Fisheries Fund, that is also under the umbrella of the Atlantic Growth Strategy, and will offer funding opportunities to applicants in the areas of innovation, value-added products and improved access to export markets.
3. One area that has special significance to Fraser is his continued push to develop and improve small craft harbours. “Our fishery is a vital part of our local economy and we need to have good small craft harbours where our boats can tie up and have a safe harbour that allows them to do their job and continue to sustain our economy.” Fraser believes there will be developments in this area in 2018.
4. The federal Connect to Innovate fund is offering $500 million in funding to help improve Internet services for all regions. Fraser said he knows there are several applications from West Nova towards that fund and he’s looking forward to his riding getting its fair share. “This is the first part of this program and I’m advocating for continued investments in this area,” Fraser said. “If we want to sustain our rural economies and quality of life, then access to high speed Internet is a necessity.”
5. Fraser said he continues to work closely with MLA Gordon Wilson on the Jordantown-Acaciaville-Conway Betterment association community centre project. “We’ve been working really hard on that project together and I think we’ll have some good news in 2018.”
6. Fraser said he is looking forward to helping celebrate the Municipality of Clare’s 250th anniversary as a settlement. Fraser added that Clare has applied to Canadian Heritage for funding for the 250th celebrations and he remains optimistic that the funding will be granted.
7. The Dec. 12 passing of Bill C-23, the Preclearance Act, allows the federal government to explore preliminary discussions with the U.S. and stakeholders about possible U.S. preclearance sites at inland border points within Canada. While its early days and no official discussions have taken place, Fraser said there have been a few casual discussions about the possibilities for a preclearance site in Yarmouth for the Portland Ferry crossing, and he is cautiously optimistic that somewhere down the road, a preclearance site may one day be established in Yarmouth. “I would definitely like to see that happen.” However, Fraser also added that major investments at the Yarmouth ferry terminal would be required to make this a reality.
8. Fraser said that while health care is a provincial mandate, he will continue to be supportive of the work his provincial colleagues are doing to improve access to health care in the riding. “We have had $300 million in additional funding contributed to Nova Scotia for health care and home care,” Fraser said. “We need to continue to work to ensure that we have improved access to health care providers and to also maintain the staff we already have in our smaller communities. Health care remains a big issue for our area – and I can say that some good work has been done, but there is much more work to do.”
Overall, Fraser is optimistic that 2018 will be a positive one for West Nova. “It’s going to be a great year,” Fraser said.